What Number of College Students are Nondrinkers? College Binge Drinking Culture & Consequences

What Number of College Students are Nondrinkers? College Binge Drinking Culture & Consequences

While college is all about higher learning, some students see it as a gateway towards a unique drinking experience. To make matters worse, this ritual – which some see as an ‘integral’ part of the learning – can exacerbate the long-standing alcoholism problem in some students.

The Statistics  

According to the US government’s College Drinking Prevention program, approximately 60% of college students admit to taking alcohol. This leaves only 40% of the population abstinent from drinking.

To wit, there are about 18.4 million college students as of the United States Census Bureau’s last recording. With that being said, that puts the number at more than 11 million for drinkers – and a little more than 7.3 million for non-drinkers.

The Crucial Period

College drinking can happen anytime throughout the enrollment period. However, the most vulnerable time proves to be the first 6 weeks of freshman year. Heavy drinking often occurs during this time because of the pressure and expectations from fellow students.

Alcohol Use Disorder in College Students

Alcohol Use Disorder in College Students

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) as severe problem drinking. It is a brain disease that comes with compulsive drinking and uncontrolled alcohol intake. Whenever the user is unable to drink, he develops a negative emotional state.

The NIAAA estimates that about 15 million Americans suffer from AUD. About 3.7 million are believed to be college students, as reports say that approximately 20% of the said individuals suffer from AUD.

Why is Alcohol Drinking So Rampant in Colleges?

Alcohol drinking is a problem in every aspect of society, though it seems to occur greatly in colleges and universities. According to the College Drinking Prevention program, such onset can be attributed to the following factors:

Availability of alcohol.

Although most students are not 21 years old yet, they can easily get alcohol from everywhere. There are usually lots of booze in dorms and frat houses.

Lax enforcement of underage drinking laws.

Students are crafty when it comes to drinking – even if it’s clear that they shouldn’t be drinking anyway. They might ask an ‘older’ student to buy alcohol for them. Some may even have access to fake IDs that permit admittance to nearby bars.

Unstructured time.

Students can opt to attend class at a certain time. This flexibility allows them to drink a lot since they usually don’t have to wake up early the next day.

Lack of interaction with parents or other adults.

For some students, college is the time to break free from parental watch. With no moms, dads, or other responsible adults hovering of them, they take this as an opportunity to go all-out with alcohol drinking.

Other Risk Factors

Apart from social pressure, the school itself can play a role in the severity of student drinking. Campuses with strong Greek influences and famous athletic programs usually have more drinkers.

Those involved in fraternities and sororities are at a higher risk of drinking as well. This frequently happens because of the availability of booze in frat houses – and the lack of adult guidance in the said places.

The Consequences

Drinking adversely affects the lives of people – can you only imagine its impact on young college students? More than just affecting the drinker, alcohol use can overwhelm the people surrounding them as well.

Here are the harrowing statistics, according to the College Drinking Prevention website:

The effects of alcoholism do not end there. Uncontrolled drinking can also lead to suicide attempts, unprotected sex, and a variety of health problems. College drinkers can also run into legal problems such as property damage, vandalism, and police arrests.

What Can Parents Do?

One of the often-overlooked factors that can reduce college drinking is parental influence. According to Jessica Lahey, an author of books aimed at preventing childhood addiction, parental disapproval of drinking may help prevent the onset of college drinking. Contrary to popular beliefs, students who were allowed by their parents to drink suffered from more negative consequences, such as the ones stated above.

With that being said, here are some tips for parents who wish to save their children from the clutches of college drinking:

  • Counsel your child about the dangers and consequences of college drinking (as presented in this article.)
  • Read the school’s alcohol policy together with your child. This will help you learn more about the college’s statutes on alcohol-related incidences.
  • Extend your support and guidance as needed, especially during the first 6 weeks of college.
  • Educate your child about the signs of alcoholism or alcohol poisoning – and when to call for help.

What Can Campus Administrators Do?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism promotes the use of College AIM (Alcohol Intervention Matrix.) This can help campus personnel determine the best interventions for alcohol-associated problems.

It can help administrators assess the problems and choose the most applicable strategies. It can also assist in the planning phase, and most importantly, the implementation process.

College AIM presents various effective strategies. One example is the use of individual programs. They range from skills training, motivational intervention, to multi-component education-focused program.

Another College AIM strategy pertains to environmental change, which includes restricting alcohol sales, enforcing fake ID laws, and maintaining an alcohol-free campus.

In a Nutshell

College drinking is a problem that affects as much 60% of the American student populace. It usually starts during the first 6 weeks of freshman year, where peer pressure is at an all-time high. Sadly, college drinking can lead to poor school performance, accidents, assault, even rape. While the burden of choice remains with the student, the parents and administrators can help minimize the problem as well.


Learn how to stay sober and maintain a healthy lifestyle by subscribing to our newsletter. We promise to send only insightful content that is worthy of your time.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts.